USA TODAY Sports
The Heat waited too long to take the Wizards seriously.
You've never seen a coach so disappointed to hear that he didn't need to stop another team's stars.
Prior to a spotlighted clash with the Spurs, Erik Spoelstra learned that Gregg Popovich had sent his three top players, plus another starter, back to San Antonio. Rather than celebrate, Spoelstra seemed to bemoan the lost opportunity, repeatedly remarking that his team had been excited about the challenge.
And then, predictably, Miami played down to the level of competition, nearly falling to the likes of Matt Bonner and Nando de Colo.
Simply put, NBA players know when another team is worth their time.
This is especially true for a championship team like the Heat, which takes the court most nights with three of the four best players. With success comes some arrogance, and LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh aren't likely to summon quite the same focus and ferocity when facing starters who wouldn't find a place in the Heat rotation.
That's why it has been disappointing that some of the bad teams haven't faced Miami at full strength, as was the case with Cleveland, which didn't have Kyrie Irving, or New Orleans, which didn't have either Eric Gordon or Anthony Davis. Those are individuals who Miami would be more likely to respect.
No matter what Heat players say, there are some nights when they just don't see anyone on the other side who can seriously hurt them.
That's why, before the recent game in Charlotte, Spoelstra felt compelled to remind his players and then the media that "the last time we were in a situation like this, we didn't handle it well."
Spoelstra noted the following after the Christmas contest against the Thunder:
We had a healthy amount of respectful fear for what OKC was going to bring into that game, and our guys took the challenge. Now we're dealing with a totally different challenge, where it's not necessarily fear, but it has to be the same type of respect, and respect for what we're trying to do.
Nicely said, but not always easily done.